Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The future is already here

The future of anything we predict will be wrong, as there will always be further intricacies and differences over time that nobody will have foreseen (or else we'd all be driving around in hover cars several years ago and other such stuff). However, that doesn't stop: fiction writers, astrologists, weathermen and bloggers from forecasting what they believe will happen in the future. If you've attended a recent presentation given by me, you will see I regularly use a quote from the popular Science Fiction writer William Gibson, author of the classic novel Neuromancer that first used the term 'cyberspace'. Although he's great at painting a rich vision of the future, my favourite quote of his is:
The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet. [source]
The rapid rate of change in both society and technology (perhaps these two go hand-in?) now means that the future isn’t the far-off sci-fi future we had in 60’s, 70’s and even 1980’s TV programmes…. Technological change means the future is only one step away. And perhaps any notion of cyberspace (AKA the Internet) as a separate place to go to, rather than something that now overlays our reality and connects 2 billion of the World’s citizens, is now outdated. Any future we now predict should really be based on the always-informed inter-connected world of today and an acceptance that the next quantum leap is only a few years, days or even weeks away. But to give equal weight to the second part of Mr Gibson’s quote, the adoption of technology (and indeed social change) is not equal across the globe. Internet access may be almost a basic human right for those of us living in the First World, but we should consider ourselves lucky each time we flick on the switch to our PC, laptop or smartphone. The ‘developed’ world has almost unconstrained access to the web, whereas the information ‘have-nots’ are also most likely the health, food and medicine ‘have-nots’ as well. Perhaps the real science fiction is that we will manage to: feed, clothe and provide equal rights to everyone…..